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The Genius of Pixar

February 18, 2010

I wrote a half finished review of Up months ago that I just recently stumbled upon oddly enough after watching Wall-E for the hundredth time. It’s official; as the sun sets the moon rises, when the wind blows grass will bend and if Pixar makes a film I will cry (Toy Story 2 doesn’t exist). Here’s a tidbit about me: I’m a bit of a technophobe. Frankly I don’t trust technology. I admit I enjoy the perks of being exposed to porn, being entertained and occasionally learning at the click of a mouse, but as a whole I fear what our addictions to technology will make us a century from now. Yet Wall-E and Up are the two of the few films utilizing the same technology that I fear, not to dominate film, but instead create new and fantastic pieces of art.

Up is definitely one of the deepest and most profound of the Pixar films while Wall-E has the most intriguing social commentary. The topics discussed in both films are heavier than any other from Pixar, the technology is more flawlessly advanced and even the narrative structure sets Up apart from its predecessors. Considering Disney has visited the themes of brotherly murder, PETA debates, and bestiality, Up’s tale of an old man remembering to live life may not seem so impressive. Nevertheless its story of aging and loneliness along with Wall-E’s take on human negligence makes both films more significant and realistic children’s films than older generations.

Up
starts in an alternate version of the 1930s with 7-year-old Carl and Ellie who share a passion for adventure and the famed pilot Charles Muntz. In one of the most beautiful montages I’ve ever seen on screen the two meet, become friends, fall in love, grow up and grow old together. However even within the montage’s bubbly happiness there are moments that remind viewers of the harsh realities of life. In her old age Ellie passes leaving behind a lonely and jaded Carl whose dream home he built for her is now the prospective site of a company’s construction. After a series of unfortunate events Carl is court-ordered to a retirement home. He decides to keep one last promise for Ellie and attaches millions of balloons to his home so that he can float away to Paradise Falls. Unbeknownst to Carl a young eager cub scout named Russell is trapped on his doorstep during take-off. What follows next is an adorable adventure with a slew of crazy characters, twists, and turns.

Pixar knows the rules of cinema and how to use them to tug at viewers heartstrings. Through “camera” movement and attention to detail, the film evokes strong feelings of empathy and tranquility. And like yin and yang Up balances the right amount of humor to take away the sting of its serious plot. While on the surface Up ends on a high note, its deeper revelation is just as heartbreaking as its beginning and I was left confused at whether to cry tears of joy or sadness. Instead I did both. Nominated for 5 Academy Awards this year, it would be a shame and pure robbery if Up didn’t win at least one of them. I’m calling Best Animated Feature.

While Up deals with the psychological aspects of humanity, Wall-E takes a sociological approach and focuses on human’s destructive behaviors and our interactions with each other in the distant or perhaps near future. Wall-E is a government built robot left on Earth to clean up the skyscrapers of debris left behind by humans, whom now all live on board a corporate owned spaceship. Wall-E’s ultimate purpose is to return the planet to a livable state for man. Wall-E is not the average breed of robot however, he does his work with pride and care finding pleasure in the lost treasures left behind by humans: egg beaters, lighters, ring boxes, cassette tapes and Hello Dolly.

When a ship drops off a new by-the-book robot, Eva, to scan for life Wall-E becomes smitten with the sleek white angle. The two bond as Wall-E exposes Eva to the beauty in everyday objects and events. Upon discovering her missions “directive” Eva shuts down leaving a heartbroken Wall-E to follow her back to her ship where he inadvertently opens the eyes of the complacent humans to the beauty around them and error of their ways.

Pixar’s ability to give inanimate characters emotion and appeal is exemplified in Wall-E. Although Wall-E’s characters are mostly all constructed of mechanical pieces, knobs, lights and gadgets the viewer is fully aware of every smile, frown or tear that the change in light or structure is meant to represent on the robot’s bodies. Wall-E’s overall message is powerful and needed without being preachy. It doesn’t blame corporations or scold the world for being “bad,” instead it merely shows the audience the possible consequence of consumption and complacence.

After watching both films I smile at how proud I am of Pixar. As a whole they continue to make films with fresh stories, advanced technology and valuable social commentary something the average Hollywood film has forgotten how to do. Although a disgustingly large conglomerate themselves, Disney is at the top with it comes to animation and films like Wall-E and Up only make me bite my nails in anticipation of what’s next.

Up = SEE IT. And tell your friends how it’s the best Pixar film ever.
Wall-E= SEE IT. And tell your friends how it’s the best Pixar film ever.

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